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As I write, India has reported, 3,621,425 cases of COVID-19, 78,761 of them in a single 24-hour period this weekend. Alas, one of those 3 million-plus cases is Gautom Menon, the irrepressible Founder and ‘Top Cat’ at Wild Tiger Beverages in Kerala.
Gautom, you will remember, was the ebullient mastermind behind last year’s ‘Roar Trip’ – a remarkable venture that saw him and fellow Wild Tiger executive Paul George Vedanayagam famously complete an epic 65-day road trip from Kerala to Cannes, arriving just in time for the TFWA World Exhibition.
The project served as an awareness and fund-raising campaign for tiger conservation, a cause close to Gautom’s heart, and for the duty free industry.
Gautom has put the same sense of innovation, passion and (albeit of a different kind) drive into building his company from scratch over recent years. Travel retail, a channel he entered in 2016 with the company’s flagship, Wild Tiger Rum, has been a key focus and the brand was truly roaring along until the pandemic struck.
Since then, Gautom, like most of us, has been grounded, spending his time plotting new innovations and fine-tuning the launch of his premium gin, neatly named Gindia.
You can’t keep a wild cat like Gautom cooped up for too long though. One particular outing to some local factories and a routine hospital visit in Kerala with his sister Vinaya last week saw them both feeling distinctly unwell afterwards and subsequently being confirmed as COVID-19 positive.
Gautom tells me that after a few pretty rough days, he is feeling a lot better. “For an avid traveller and free spirited person like me, it sucks to be holed up in a room,” he says.
As he notes on LinkedIn, “At the same time last year we were traversing the world crossing 25 countries, facing many challenges and creating memories for a lifetime. A year later, here I am, but I fully well know which experience is going to build more resolve and character, and will be grateful for it.”
Just like Wild Tiger Rum, that’s the great Indian spirit for you. Get well Gautom (and Vinaya), we need you roaring again and your seemingly inexhaustible supply of bad tiger puns flowing again like the Wild Tiger Rum on a good night out.